T-3 / BR 89
review by Chip Rosenblum
1/32 scale, 45 mm gauge
Arrangement: 0-6-0T (6 wheeler)
Diameter: 34 mm spoked type
2 Cylinders made of Phosphor Bronze, Bore 10 mm x Stroke 15 mm
Gear: Allan Straight Link Valve
Gear with Screw Reverser
Type: Type "C" with 2
Fire Tubes of 12 mm diameter
110 ml at 80% full
Safety Valve, Regulator Valve, Blower Valve, Check Valve, Water Gauge and
Roscoe Displacement Type
4 Wick Tube Alcohol Burner
Tank Capacity: 50 ml at 80%
full, a bush for Aster Utility Car is provided for longer periods of running
European Standard Hook Coupler (Height 33 mm)
Radius: 0.6 m (Negotiable on
asked if I’d build the kit, then write a review of the new Aster T-3, I with
the exuberance of anyone ignorant of what, exactly, they’re getting into, said
large, brown cardboard box arrived from Steam in the Garden.
On opening it, the first thought that crossed my mind is that it was
nearing the gift-giving season, as peering out at me was a dappled green shiny
cardboard box, with an iridescent silver Aster logo and name embossed on the
box. My next thought was that it
looked like a box of Holiday fruit from Harry and David.
Then I noticed that the strapping tape around the original cardboard box,
painted silver, would make excellent safety tread material…Maybe I could quit
it was refreshing to know that I was in way over my head, and that any engine
that required two instruction books to build was probably going to sit on my
shelf forever. Except for Ron’s
through the instruction book and diagram book of assembly was incredibly
reminiscent of a long-past Christmas Eves with a bicycle due by dawn.
not sure of Tab A, much less Slot B, and there’s no instruction as to whether
to remove the staples from the first page to free up the sandpaper and ceramic
the directions and diagrams are quite clear once work begins.
It is much better than theorizing with just a book in from of you.
It does take some study for both orientation of the parts and insertion
points of screws and fasteners, but between the instruction manual and the
illustration book, if you take your time, the step-by-step method is an
did find that having a better assortment of tools was critical to precise
assembly. The tools provided by the
kit are marginal at best, and an assortment of good quality small tools made
some otherwise difficult fastener installation go very easily.
the end of sep one (the assembly of the buffers, drivers, and side rods to the
chassis), I stopped to look at what progress was made and the engineering and
instructions involved. First of
all, I think that it’s a very well thought out kit.
The parts that need to be factory built (chassis, drive rods and
bushings) are, and the assembler is given a stable base on which to initiate
building the engine.
drivers turned freely, after a little “running in” with oil under finger
spinning, but if they hadn’t the instructions provide good trouble shooting
tips and areas to look at for binds. I
like the fact that they don’t make the assumption that everything will always
go smoothly, and provide a sense of direction as to where to look for a fix.
This helps relieve creative paranoia if things don’t go exactly to
plan, and a good roadmap if things get a bit off track.
next sep entails assembling the cylinders.
The instructions say to lap the valve face of the cylinder castings and
the slide valves to remove the milling marks, and to provide steam-tight mating
surfaces. I place a glass slab in a
pie pan filled with water to just cover the glass, thus providing a water
lubricant for the entire process and ability to wash away debris while lapping.
This is a critical step for providing steam-tight valves for optimum
operation. This is also the first
item I found in the kit that represented poor quality control.
One of the cylinder faces had fairly extensive linear scratches, and was
also an extremely porous casting. With
heavy lapping the scratches can be removed, but the porosity cannot. This was a casting that should have been scrapped.
other casting was in pretty good shape, except it, too, should have been
scrapped due to a major gouge leading directly out of one of the valve ports.
When you are faced with a major reduction of material to reach a smooth
surface, forget starting with the 1000 grit paper included in the kit.
Start with 400 or 500 grit (up to 400 grit silicon carbide paper can be
found at almost any woodworkers supply house, and from there up to 2000 or so
can be found at an automotive finishes supplier).
art of polishing is to remove scratches with finer scratches, so stick with the
coarsest paper you choose until the surface has even scratches. Them move to the
600, then 100, and then, to be really precise, to 1500 grit.
Make sure to rinse your castings, slab, pan, and change the water between
grits, as even one grit of coarser material in the lapping pan can ruin the
finish of the next lapping grit. Although
I was left with the porosity in the one cylinder, and the gouge from the valve
port in the other, the faces on the whole were mirror smooth before I proceeded.
sectional also briefly footnotes to make sure that the valve block slides freely
in the slide valve prior to proceeding. Check
this carefully, as my castings would not move at all.
A brief lap with 600 grit on the sides and bottom, and a slight radius to
the edges left them sliding like trying to get to the car in an Ohio winter!
caveat here is applying gasket eliminator to the gaskets while assembling the
cylinders. The “tiny bead”
obtained directly from the tube is only “tiny” in 12” = 1’ scale for
those reassembling a water pump on a 1942 Willys Jeep!
This is not so in 1:32. My
suggestion is to put a small dab of the compound on a plastic coffee can lid,
and use a smooth metal tipped implement to pick up, and daintily dab and spread
the compound. This works well,
saves cleanup, and leaves your cylinder bore free of a large glob of squeezed
out glop! The rest of the assembly
sequence went very well, with all of the parts correctly machined and accurately
began assembling he valve gear, I noticed in an additional technical bulletin
provided by Aster that the drive rod on the main coupled driver may have been
assembled slightly askew, and, if so, it was to be returned and a replacement
obtained. I mention this as, if you
read this prior to initiating assembly of your kit, it was save time and hassle
of undoing assembly to retrieve the drivers, as I had to do.
It will also save downtime waiting for a replacement part.
observation while waiting for the part so assembly can proceed: I find working
on this kit a marvelous, almost Zen-like, process. Although I’ll look forward to the finished product, it will
be a bit of a letdown to complete the kit, as the act of working on it is
incredibly relaxing. Yes, there is
great concentration that removes the real-world awareness and cares from my
daily life, and provides a bit of a sanctuary in the midst of normal confusion.
For that reason alone I could recommend building this kit.
A nice observation on both quality and responsiveness at this point is to not that the correctly aligned part was shipped the same day that Aster received notification, and arrived within one week of that date.
then I was able to proceed to step 3, “Assembling the Allan valve gear”.
My first response at opening the parts bag and looking at the
illustration was that I was back in an organic chemistry final.
It wasn’t enough to know the formulas, but I was once again faced with
the spatial orientation of the bonds. This
where both the instructions and the illustrations really proved just how well
thought out and sequentially constructed they were.
By taking each step at a time, the instructions walked me through a very
complicated assembly in way that made the process doable, and the resulting
assembly accurate. Now I can’t
wait (but I must) to see if it operates and that I really did get everything in
the right place at the right time.
next step comprised installing the footplate and the adjustment of the Allan
valve gear linkage and slide valve setting.
The illustrations were very clear at this point, and the instructions
good on how to introduce compensations to adjust the slide valves.
At this point it was time for the air test.
This is the moment of either triumph or disaster, in the sense of
discovering if what was what was assembled to date actually works, or if one
must go back to ground zero. It
worked well, and, after a few minutes, I was able to reduce the air pressure to
about 10psi and have the mechanism tick over like a Swiss watch.
test is an excellent opportunity to check clearances during running, as there is
some lateral play in the valve gear this not readily apparent when hand-spinning
the drivers during installation. Pay
particular attention to any ticking or knocking sounds, as some of the pins used
to install the linkages have very little clearance, and this is the time to
provide any adjustments.
installation of the ceramic shielding is pretty much a cut and try affair.
I have three suggestions for this step, however.
first is to not install any piece until have tried it in place, as the
measurements given in the instructions and illustrations neglect clearances for
some of spot welded struts. This
fitting process will also allow the builder to mark and then cut out on the
bench any areas needing it, thereby making your cutouts much neater and less
like to disturb the shielding once in place.
second thing to do is to ignore the step directions and to install the number
plates before installing the shielding, and not after.
This is because if you install it after, there is no way to get to the
little tabs to bend them down to secure the number plates.
third item to check is the smokebox door hinge holes and the smokebox handle
clearance hole. The wire supplied
for this part is supposed to be 0.8 mm, but turned out to be 1.0 mm and the
holes for the hinges in the smokebox door and on the smokebox had to be enlarged
are no instructions for the T-3 for installing the smokebox door handle, but if
you read the BR 89 instructions, the directions are there for installing a
spring pin through the handle shaft. This
acts as the detent when the door is closed as well as retaining the handle.
However, the clearance hole is far too small for the spring pin, and I
had to enlarge mine to get the spring pin to fit with a press it without risking
damage to the handle by having to apply to much pressure.
I finally decided that it was not worth forcing at all, and I drilled it
out to a tight slide fit and installed it using a bearing-retaining compound,
which seemed to work quite well.
kit then proceeds to the boiler and fitting assemblies.
I found the boiler well constructed and finished, and with a logical and
nicely illustrated sequence. The
only caveat I would issue for this step is when assembling the sight glass
fitting, allow sufficient time to complete it in one go.
This is because aligning the sight glass is a fiddly proposition.
Although the Loctite 510 gasket compound states a set in 2 to 12 hours, I
found that an Einsteinium time dilation applied and there wasn’t a whole lot
of working time until it set enough that I came concerned that adjustments would
possibly break the bead seal.
as a “native” American, I was fresh out of 6mm rods, and so was reduced to
using the slight glass itself to tighten and align the fittings.
This is akin to taking some of the retirements fund to Vegas, but in this
case it worked out well. Just take
it slow. Don’t prematurely tighten anything until you’re satisfied
with the alignment.
air test of the boiler back head fittings (I got lucky – no leaks) showed no
air coming from the blower pipe when the blower valve was opened.
On disassembly, I noted that the blower outlet pipe from the steam dome
was plugged with a flux bloom from the original soldering operations on the
boiler. This easily cleaned out,
but do visually check the fittings before assembly to make sure they are open
the boiler and smokebox to the chassis is a particularly gratifying step!
This is because, at least visually, one has now attained “engine.”
The procedures are logical and well illustrated, and show good
engineering and instructions. However,
(there’s always one of those, isn’t there?) under the “Hints from Heloise”
corner, the boiler is attached to the chassis using four bolts.
The drawings show this but the instructions don’t.
The rear two bolts are already in place when the buffer beam was attached
early on, so pull those prior to fiddling the boiler in place and save yourself
the trouble of removing the boiler and repositioning it a second time.
With all four bolts in position its’ a very secure installation.
rest of the assembly procedure went according to the instructions and
illustrations, with only the normally expected adjustments of any kit during the
finishing phase. I found that the
hardest part was cutting the wicks to the correct length and stuffing the wick
tubes correctly, but even that is just tedium, and not difficult.
big smile happened when I fired up the finished T-3 and watched it run!
When, this is Ohio in the winter, so the “run” occurred with the
engine on two bricks on top of the chest freezer in the basement.
I can’t wait until the spring thaw so actually see it running on track!
All in all, building this kit was as immensely satisfying experience. The engineering, instructions, and support created by Aster in developing the T-3 combine to make an impressive product, and I would not hesitate to recommend the kit and the engine to one and all!
This article originally appeared in Issue No. 34 (Vol. 6. No. 4) of Steam in the Garden. Appreciation for permission to reproduce it on SouthernSteamTrains.com is expressed to Chip Rosenblum, author; and to Ron Brown, Publisher / Editor of Steam in the Garden.